When the Gang of Eight first announced their immigration bill they declared it was the toughest enforcement plan in history. They declared enforcement would come before legalization. And they declared that anyone who suggested otherwise didn’t know what they were talking about. Now the bill has been reviewed and there can be no dispute: it weakens current law, undermines future enforcement and puts amnesty—not enforcement—first. So new promises of amendment ‘fixes’ to save the bill should be viewed with great skepticism: every time, on every issue, the promises have not matched with reality. They promised back taxes—but the requirement isn’t there; they promised tight restrictions on welfare benefits—but state and local benefits, as well as tax credits, will be available immediately and federal welfare access is granted to millions of illegal immigrants starting in five years; they promised to protect workers—but this bill would devastate workers by tripling the number of legal immigrants over the next decade and doubling the number of guest workers.
No small cosmetic fix can save this bill, with so many provisions clearly authored by special interests whose chief desires are lower wages and amnesty—rather than a lawful, rational system of immigration. As the ICE officers’ association warned: ‘instead of cracking down on the Administration’s abuse of power, S. 744 places unprecedented new restrictions on interior enforcement—making the current situation much worse and much more hazardous. It is as if S. 744 were explicitly written to handcuff law enforcement officials—binding their hands while giving virtually unchecked authority to executive branch officials to prevent future removals, including removals of criminal aliens.’ And as the USCIS adjudications officers warned: ‘the legislation was written with special interests—producing a bill that makes the current system worse, not better. S. 744 will damage public safety and national security and should be opposed by lawmakers.’ It’s time for the Gang of Eight to start being straight with the American public.”
Remember, top Democrats have stated on the record that they'll veto any changes to the current bill that exceed "tweaks." We already know that any move toward an 'enforcement first' paradigm doesn't qualify. Whether Cornyn's plan would really short-circuit the process remains to be seen; Sessions views the discussion as misdirection. His office also blasted out a video clip of the Senate Judiciary Committee defeating Sessions' amendment that would have blocked newly-legalized immigrants from receiving a generous tax subsidy during their provisional status. All ten committee Democrats opposed the measure, while Republicans -- Lindsey Graham included -- unanimously voted aye. This 10-8 party line vote took place nearly a month ago, but Sessions believes it's an enduring example of 'gang' rhetoric not aligning with reality:
Chris Crane, president of the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council, has also warned that the proposed bill does not sufficiently address interior enforcement:
It appears that the individuals and organizations involved in crafting the Gang of Eight legislation purposely ignored interior enforcement with the intent of continuing the practices which have led to the nation’s current immigration problems. The proof of this is the bill itself, S.744, the Gang of Eight ’ s immigration legislation. With visa overstays accounting for an estimated 40% of the 11 million illegal aliens currently in the United States (4.5 million), S. 744 speaks only of significant increases to border enforcement, not interior enforcement. Clearly, 4.5 million visa overstays entered the United States legally, and did not illegally cross our nation’s borders. This is a problem that cannot be stopped by the United States Border Patrol. Investments in border security will never address this problem, which accounts for almost half of all illegal aliens currently in the United States . Additionally, investments on the border will do nothing to ensure that everyone who illegally crosses the border into the United States is apprehended and removed. That again is ICE’s interior enforcement mission.
The predictable hits just keep on coming as the Obamacare clock ticks down toward full implementation. Liberals have shifted gears from arguing the law will lower costs and reduce premiums for everyone -- which is how the unpopular overhaul was dishonestly marketed -- to shrugging that hey, at least many uninsured and lower-income citizens will get affordable coverage. But even that's not universally true, as many American workers are about to painfully discover. Behold, the "Affordable" Care Act in action (via the Associated Press):
It's called the Affordable Care Act, but President Barack Obama's health care law may turn out to be unaffordable for many low-wage workers, including employees at big chain restaurants, retail stores and hotels. That might seem strange since the law requires medium-sized and large employers to offer "affordable" coverage or face fines. But what's reasonable? Because of a wrinkle in the law, companies can meet their legal obligations by offering policies that would be too expensive for many low-wage workers. For the employee, it's like a mirage — attractive but out of reach. The company can get off the hook, say corporate consultants and policy experts, but the employee could still face a federal requirement to get health insurance. Many are expected to remain uninsured, possibly risking fines. That's due to another provision: the law says workers with an offer of "affordable" workplace coverage aren't entitled to new tax credits for private insurance, which could be a better deal for those on the lower rungs of the middle class. Some supporters of the law are disappointed. It smacks of today's Catch-22 insurance rules.
They're "disappointed," and are already mobilizing to pin their own mess on insurance companies. Their solution, of course, will be to forge ahead to a fully government-run single payer system -- which has been the objective from word one. They'll ask Americans to forgive them for producing a disastrous, unworkable federal power-grab, insisting that it can only be fixed by even bigger government. No thanks. The AP story above shines the spotlight on a gaping loophole in Obamacare. Basically, major employers of low-wage workers can technically satisfy the law's requirement that they offer "affordable" coverage to full-time employees, even if the new rates aren't actually affordable in reality. Unable to pay the premiums being offered by their employers, and ineligible for taxpayer subsidies to obtain coverage on their own (because they're "choosing" not to accept their "affordable" employer options), many of these workers will determine they have no choice but to remain uninsured -- and will pay the anti-middle class Obamacare mandate tax for the privilege of doing so. What a deal. Guess who's heading for the exits as this monstrosity looms? Ta-da:
Dozens of lawmakers and aides are so afraid that their health insurance premiums will skyrocket next year thanks to Obamacare that they are thinking about retiring early or just quitting. The fear: Government-subsidized premiums will disappear at the end of the year under a provision in the health care law that nudges aides and lawmakers onto the government health care exchanges, which could make their benefits exorbitantly expensive...If the issue isn’t resolved, and massive numbers of lawmakers and aides bolt, many on Capitol Hill fear it could lead to a brain drain just as Congress tackles a slew of weighty issues — like fights over the Tax Code and immigration reform. The problem is far more acute in the House, where lawmakers and aides are generally younger and less wealthy. Sources said several aides have already given lawmakers notice that they’ll be leaving over concerns about Obamacare. Republican and Democratic lawmakers said the chatter about retiring now, to remain on the current health care plan, is constant.
What to make of this? I'll raise a few theories below, but here's the Washington Post's Greg Sargent on supposed internal conflict within the 'Gang of Eight:'
Republican and Democratic senators in the “gang of eight” immigration reform group gave Marco Rubio an earful at a private meeting this week, telling him they were frustrated with his public embrace of overly conservative border security measures and his failure to adequately communicate with them over strategy, which they said was putting reform at risk, I’m told. The details of the private meeting on Wednesday – which were shared with me by a source familiar with the episode — shed new light on the delicate behind the scenes strategic calculations the gang of eight is making as it seeks to navigate its proposal past conservative opposition through the Senate. The meeting hints at the true nature of the collective kabuki that the gang of eight is engaged in as it seeks to create just enough space to the right for Republicans to embrace the bill — without moving it so far to the right that it alienates Democrats. Publicly, Senators have mostly remained mum as Rubio has flirted with conservative demands for more border security. But in the private meeting, Republican and Democratic senators in the gang of eight expressed “frustration” with Rubio over the manner in which he publicly embraced the John Cornyn amendment, which mandates hard border security “triggers” as a precondition for citizenship in a manner Dems find unacceptable, the source tells me...As feared, uncommitted Republican Senators are beginning to clamber aboard the Cornyn “hard trigger” express.
Like Allahpundit, I'm deeply skeptical that Rubio has actually run afoul of fellow 'gang' members by endorsing John Cornyn's stricter border enforcement provisions, which Rubio reportedly helped draft in private -- though Cornyn's office disputes that claim. Sargent is right to confine "hard trigger" to quotation marks because although that amendment is an improvement over the bill's status quo, the notion that it's a draconian non-starter for Democrats is absurd. I heard initial buzz from sources close to the gang of eight's inner workings that Chuck Schumer was prepared to accept Cornyn's plan. I openly wondered why on earth the New York Senator wouldn't at least feign initial opposition to the proposal, only to "cave" later and give conservatives a "win." That's how this sort of kabuki works. Sure enough, within a day or two, Harry Reid was tearing into the Cornyn amendment as a "poison pill," or whatever. John McCain and Lindsey Graham have used similar language, surprising nobody. (Again, go back and read what Cornyn has proposed. It's not even remotely "harsh" or unreasonable). I presumed this was all pure theater, but then Rubio pivoted to co-authoring yet another amendment with Tom Coburn, which will almost certainly water down the already watered-down Cornyn enforcement package. Remember, the only plan that would have required genuine security triggers before the government grants provisional legalization to millions died on the Senate floor last week.
The Rubio/Coburn development has me rethinking some previous assumptions. Maybe the Left flank really doesn't intend to eventually relent on the Cornyn amendment. Maybe the kabuki is actually happening on the Right, where conservatives are offering up stronger enforcement paradigms to assuage the base, knowing full well that the Senate will never adopt anything that even approaches a serious improvement. And perhaps the Left is getting a little greedy. They might have concluded that (a) Republicans like McCain and Graham are giving them sufficient political cover to reject any idea that treads beyond illusory baby steps, and (b) Rubio's become too invested in the outcome to walk away now. They might be right on both counts. In any case, all of this maneuvering on behalf of "amnesty" must be corroding Rubio's standing among Republicans nationally, right? Wrong:
Rubio clocks in at a whopping +47 favorable rating among Republicans, second only to Mitt Romney's running mate and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan -- who also happens to support a big bipartisan compromise on immigration reform. Be sure to note Chris Christie's numbers; he's at the bottom of that pile, but still registers a healthy +28 favorability mark among Republicans. Among all adults, including Republicans, Democrats and Independents, guess who sails to the front of the class? That's why I suspect AP is right when it comes to Rubio's potential for rehabilitation among those who are currently livid at him for basically spearheading the Gang of Eight effort:
If he hangs in there and the bill passes, he’ll get all sorts of media love as the “new leader of the GOP,” a man who “makes things happen in Washington,” blah blah. You and I will pound the table and swear that we’ll never, ever vote for him in 2016, and that might be true — for awhile. But strange things happen. What if Christie emerges as a real threat to take the nomination with moderate support? Suddenly Rubio becomes the lesser of two evils, a guy who’s much more conservative than Christie on balance, who has a pretty good record if you exclude the whole “terrible immigration bill” thing, who’s darned electable against Hillary and isn’t that what’s really important? We’ll talk ourselves into it and Rubio knows it. And then, once he’s the nominee, any righty who threatens to stay home in protest of his embarrassing betrayal of border security (and betrayal of the voters who elected him in 2010 as an anti-amnesty candidate) will be considered an utmost traitor to the conservative cause. Again, Rubio knows all this.
Any conservative who's already confidently pronouncing Rubio DOA in 2016 because of his immigration work is forgetting very recent history.
Democratic Congressman Ed Markey holds a formidable 12-point lead over Republican Gabriel Gomez in the race to succeed Secretary of State John Kerry. However, there are clear signs of opportunity for Gomez. Republican and Democratic voters have put their jerseys on for their respective teams as Markey gets 80% of the Democratic vote and Gomez gets 81% of the Republican vote. Among independent voters, the race is tied at 41-41%. -
Over the last few days, we've seen three polls on this election, which is scheduled for one week from Tuesday. One GOP-aligned survey had the race virtually tied, a Suffolk poll pegged Gomez within seven points and gaining, and now this one. You know you're in Massachusetts when a titan of competence like this is up by double digits:
Scott Brown caught lightning in a bottle in 2010. If Gomez can tap into the public's metastasizing distrust of the federal government over the campaign's home stretch and get a little turnout help, he may still have an outside shot at pulling an upset in the Bay State. But the likelihood of engineering a Brown re-run seems fairly remote. Then again, the president just stumped for Markey, so I suppose Team Gomez can take some comfort in the fact that Obama's track record on the campaign trail isn't stellar when people other than himself are on the ballot. See: Coakley, Corzine, Deeds, etc.
UPDATE - The Gomez campaign emails, questioning the validity of the new poll. One example they passed along:
What’s even more strange about the Harper Poll is that they show Markey leading by almost 20 points among 65+ and only by nine among 18-35 year olds. That would be a remarkable shift from ’12 when Scott Brown lost 18-29 year olds by 21 points and lost Seniors by just six. It just doesn’t make sense.
The poll also didn't include any cell phone respondents, which is suggesting of an outmoded methodology.
In neighboring Indiana, businesses are struggling to deal with Obamacare's byzantine maze of mandates and requirements. A local news station profiles a business grappling with new and unpleasant realities facing employers nationwide: Cutting jobs and slicing hours to stay afloat:
The same melancholy song is playing in Michigan, where workers' hours are being scaled back as a restaurant chain fights to protect its business. Affected employees say they're getting "hit hard," but don't want to speak on the record, for fear of jeopardizing their jobs. Life under Obamacare:
Meanwhile, confusion continues to reign in places like Obamacare-friendly Baltimore, where government liaisons are struggling to explain the law. I'll leave you with two more pieces. (1) "Insurance leaders detail uncertainty of overhaul." Note the quote from an Obamacare supporter, via the Associated Press:
It will be a tough task implementing the online health insurance marketplaces that are required of each state under the federal health care overhaul, and there will no doubt be consumer horror stories about trying to navigate them, insurance company executives warned Tuesday. The insurance exchanges will offer private coverage to the uninsured and subsidies for low-income consumers. They're supposed to be open for enrollments by Oct. 1 and operating fully by Jan. 1. "There's a great deal of uncertainty almost everywhere you look," said Mark Moody, the president and chief executive officer of WEA Trust, which offers insurance to Wisconsin school districts, state health plan members, and local units of government. "There will be horror stories, stories of so-called train wrecks," Moody said at the panel discussion organized by Wisconsin Health News. "It will be a difficult process to get the exchanges started. ... I think fundamentally the Affordable Care Act is on the right track but it's going to be a long, slow process."
(2) "Employers Fear Obamacare Will Hike Health Costs." Via CBS News:
Obamacare may cost more than experts previously thought, according to a survey of 900 employers released Wednesday. As companies scramble to prepare for a wave of new health care rules that go into effect next year, an increasing number have become pessimistic about the cost, according to Mercer, a benefits consulting firm. Roughly one in five employers (19 percent) now expect that health care costs will rise by more than 5 percent as the result of the law. When asked the same question two years ago, only 14 percent of respondents thought the Affordable Care Act would significantly raise costs. Moreover, just 9 percent of employers still think the law will have little or no impact on costs. When asked the same question two years ago, a quarter of the respondents thought the impact would be minimal. Almost a third of employers say they still can't predict the impact.
CBS News has uncovered documents that show the State Department may have covered up allegations of illegal and inappropriate behavior within their ranks. The Diplomatic Security Service, or the DSS, is the State Department's security force, charged with protecting the secretary of state and U.S. ambassadors overseas and with investigating any cases of misconduct on the part of the 70,000 State Department employees worldwide...according to an internal State Department Inspector General's memo, several recent investigations were influenced, manipulated, or simply called off. The memo obtained by CBS News cited eight specific examples. Among them: allegations that a State Department security official in Beirut "engaged in sexual assaults" on foreign nationals hired as embassy guards and the charge and that members of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's security detail "engaged prostitutes while on official trips in foreign countries" -- a problem the report says was "endemic." The memo also reveals details about an "underground drug ring" was operating near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and supplied State Department security contractors with drugs.
The ambassador who came under investigation “routinely ditched his protective security detail in order to solicit sexual favors from both prostitutes and minor children,” according to documents obtained by NBC News...Former State Department investigator Aurelia Fedenisn has said that investigators dropped the ball in the case, and that a final report published in March of this year was “watered down,” according to her attorney. “She felt it was important that Congress get this information,” Fedenisn’s lawyer Cary Schulman told NBC News.
A DS agent was called off a case against US Ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman over claims that he solicited prostitutes, including minors. “The ambassador’s protective detail and the embassy’s surveillance detection team . . . were well aware of the behavior.” Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy ordered the investigation ceased, and the ambassador remains in place, according to the memo. Gutman was a big Democratic donor before taking the post, having raised $500,000 for President Obama’s 2008 campaign and helping finance his inaugural.
He's right to a large extent, but I'm not sure framing things this way is quite as virtuosic as he might think:
"If people can't trust not only the executive branch but also don't trust Congress, and don't trust federal judges, to make sure that we're abiding by the Constitution with due process and rule of law, then we're going to have some problems here." Obama added that the National Security agents behind the surveillance programs "cherish our Constitution...You can shout Big Brother or program run amok, but if you actually look at the details, I think we’ve struck the right balance,” he explained.
Obama himself channeled Orwell on Friday while defending the secrecy surrounding the spy programs. "Your duly elected representatives have consistently been informed," he said. In other words, trust Washington.Three problems with that logic: Americans don't trust government; an overwhelming majority of lawmakers were never told about the program; and members of Congress who were privy to intelligence "briefings" say their knowledge was limited. Look, it's a dangerous world. Obama and his team need to get their hands dirty to protect us. As terrorists grow more dangerous, we need to consider using the flexibility of the Constitution to adapt. But the mandate to keep Americans safe is no excuse to keep them in the dark.
The National Security Agency has at times mistakenly intercepted the private email messages and phone calls of Americans who had no link to terrorism, requiring Justice Department officials to report the errors to a secret national security court and destroy the data, according to two former U.S. intelligence officials.
Echoes of pre-attack Benghazi. What could go wrong? The Washington Guardian reports:
The State Department is failing to adequately protect U.S. diplomats in Beirut, leaving them without necessary counterterrorism training and serving in a decrepit, aged embassy compound that fails to meet security protocols, according to an internal investigation that raises new questions about the Obama administration's commitment to protecting Americans overseas in the aftermath of the Benghazi tragedy. In fact, the department did not place Beirut on its latest list of high-threat diplomatic missions even though Lebanon is listed at the "critical" threat level for potential violence with its frequent rocket attacks, spillovers from the Syrian civil war and heavy presence of the terror group Hezbollah, the agency's inspector general said in a report reviewed by the Washington Guardian. Beirut was also the site of one of America's deadliest terror attacks, the 1983 bombing of a Marine barracks that killed more than 240 servicemembers...
Diplomats face serious threats while working at the 18-acre “cramped, aged and difficult to maintain office" located on a "steep and hilly compound” located 20 minutes from downtown Beirut, the report said. And their superiors back home in Washington seem unaware of the threat level, failing to harden weak physical security or provide needed counterterrorism training, the inspector general observed. The risks remain high as the civil war in Syria continues to threaten the stability of Lebanon due to the influx of more than 325,000 refugees, and tensions with Hezbollah remain high with frequent rocket attacks and other skirmishes.
Amid investigations into the terrorist attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, a majority of Americans - including more than three in four Republicans (77 percent) and six in 10 independents (59 percent) - think the Obama administration is mostly hiding something on the issue of Benghazi. A majority of Democrats (59 percent) think the Obama administration is mostly telling the truth.
Giuliani attacked POTUS last night for Benghazi so I am forced to remind Giuliani how many firefighters were killed on 9/11 because of him.— Lawrence O'Donnell (@Lawrence) June 7, 2013
Last night's NSA scoop by the UK Guardian? Child's play. The Washington Post has published a truly shocking story exposing the largest government domestic program in American history. If you are reading this right now, you have been affected by PRISM, a top secret operation begun in 2007 that has expanded "exponentially" during the Obama administration. This isn't the plot of a futuristic thriller. This is the US government at work, here and now:
The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time. The highly classified program, code-named PRISM, has not been disclosed publicly before. Its establishment in 2007 and six years of exponential growth took place beneath the surface of a roiling debate over the boundaries of surveillance and privacy. Even late last year, when critics of the foreign intelligence statute argued for changes, the only members of Congress who knew about PRISM were bound by oaths of office to hold their tongues...The technology companies, which participate knowingly in PRISM operations, include most of the dominant global players of Silicon Valley. They are listed on a roster that bears their logos in order of entry into the program: “Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.” PalTalk, although much smaller, has hosted significant traffic during the Arab Spring and in the ongoing Syrian civil war. Dropbox , the cloud storage and synchronization service, is described as “coming soon.” Government officials declined to comment for this article.
The Post describes the current program as President Bush's warrantless wiretapping program on powerful steroids, with Bush's successor -- who was fiercely critical of that effort -- presiding over PRISM's vast expansion:
The Silicon Valley operation works alongside a parallel program, code-named BLARNEY, that gathers up “metadata” — address packets, device signatures and the like — as it streams past choke points along the backbone of the Internet. BLARNEY’s top-secret program summary, set down alongside a cartoon insignia of a shamrock and a leprechaun hat, describes it as “an ongoing collection program that leverages IC [intelligence community] and commercial partnerships to gain access and exploit foreign intelligence obtained from global networks.” But the PRISM program appears more nearly to resemble the most controversial of the warrantless surveillance orders issued by President George W. Bush after the al-Qaeda attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Its history, in which President Obama presided over “exponential growth” in a program that candidate Obama criticized, shows how fundamentally surveillance law and practice have shifted away from individual suspicion in favor of systematic, mass collection techniques. The PRISM program is not a dragnet, exactly. From inside a company’s data stream the NSA is capable of pulling out anything it likes, but under current rules the agency does not try to collect it all.
Beyond providing the government with the ability to "pull out whatever it likes," how potent is PRISM?
Even when the system works just as advertised, with no American singled out for targeting, the NSA routinely collects a great deal of American content...Firsthand experience with these systems, and horror at their capabilities, is what drove a career intelligence officer to provide PowerPoint slides about PRISM and supporting materials to The Washington Post in order to expose what he believes to be a gross intrusion on privacy. “They quite literally can watch your ideas form as you type,” the officer said.
Important point: Unlike Verizon metadata PRISM surveillance "can include the content of communications." bit.ly/16NXdAc— Jim Roberts (@nycjim) June 6, 2013
NBC News has learned that under the Patriot Act, the gov't has been collecting records on every call made in America— Jesse Rodriguez (@JesseRodriguez) June 6, 2013
This cascade of leaks is probably the result of Obama kicking the intelligence community in the nuts so many times.— Gabriel Malor (@gabrielmalor) June 6, 2013
There are so many unusual things about this story. Mere $20M cost. Chintzy powerpoint. Odd language in powerpoint. Tech company denials.— Joseph Weisenthal (@TheStalwart) June 7, 2013
Totally shameless, but would you expect anything less from this crew? The Internal Revenue Service is refusing to comply with Congressional investigators' requests for documents related to the agency's improper political targeting program, and they're doing so in particularly galling fashion:
Internal Revenue Service officials have invoked a Watergate-era law designed to protect private citizens' tax returns to justify their refusal to turn over documents requested by the House Ways and Means Committee. In its first official response to a May 14 bipartisan request from the committee for information and documents related to the agency's illegal harassment of conservative, evangelical and pro-Israel groups, the IRS told lawmakers on June 4 that Section 6103 of the federal tax code allows it to exempt itself from compliance with such congressional requests. The provision originally was written during the Watergate scandal to protect U.S. citizens and shield their private tax records from prying government officials. Committee chairman Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., said in a statement that the committee will continue pressing the IRS for the requested documents and information.
Ways and Means Committee staff have warned IRS officials that they are using the obscure provision to protect potentially illegal conduct by government employees or to withhold politically damaging information. "Section 6103 must not be used by the IRS as a shield," a committee staffer said in an email to reporters. The agency's tactics raise "the question of whether the IRS will broadly apply section 6103 to avoid divulging politically hazardous or potentially embarrassing information."
Most Americans regardless of party believe political reasons drove the Internal Revenue Service to single out for burdensome and unnecessary scrutiny some conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status, according to a CBS News/New York Times poll out Thursday. The public splits across party lines, though, about whether President Obama and his administration were involved. Sixty-eight percent of respondents- 80 percent of Republicans, 60 percent of Democrats and 66 percent of independents - said they think the IRS targeting was motivated by politics, rather than adherence to the tax code policy. But while forty-four percent think the Obama administration had a hand in the targeting, 40 percent said they believe the agency acted on its own.
The administration has now lost all credibility. Mr. Obama is proving the truism that the executive will use any power it is given and very likely abuse it.